Obama warns ‘sleepy’ Democrats about 2014

President Obama on Tuesday night renewed his criticism of Democrats' casual approach to midterm elections, saying they often get "sleepy" in non-presidential election cycles and need to redouble their efforts in 2014.

"We are really good at presidential elections these days, if I do say so myself," Obama said at a Senate Democrats fundraiser in Virginia, drawing laughter. "And as a corollary to that, we’re good at Senate and House elections during presidential years. It’s something about midterms."

Obama added: "I don’t know what it is about us. We get a little sleepy, we get a little distracted. We don’t turn out to vote. We don’t fund campaigns as passionately. That has to change and has got to change right here, because too much is at stake for us to let this opportunity slip by.​"

Republicans are shooting to retake the Senate this year, and early prognostications generally agree that they have a good chance to win the six seats necessary -- in large part because the terrain is fertile for Republicans, but also because of unrest over the rollout of Obamacare.

Obama's comments echo his admonition last week that Democrats don't think midterms are "sexy" enough and follow on similar statements from high-profile Democratic strategists who worry that the GOP is more focused on the midterms -- financially and otherwise. These strategists, including former top Obama aide David Axelrod, have said Democrats are too focused on the 2016 presidential race and especially Hillary Clinton's prospects.

"The last time we had a midterm in a very difficult situation is we were right at the very trough of the recession, we paid a dear price for not paying enough attention to these midterm elections," Obama said, referring to the huge GOP gains of 2010. "We cannot repeat that same mistake this year."

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

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